On Saturday, July 7, a security guard at DC’s popular club, U Street Music Hall, asked two male patrons to leave for having danced “in a sexual manner” during a Robyn concert. Fortunately, two staff security guards stepped in during the incident, and UHall’s General Manager fired the security guard — who had been contracted by a third-party firm — on the spot.
After learning on the incident on Monday, U Hall co-owner Will Eastman posted a heartfelt public Facebook note expressing his remorse and anger with the situation.
“I’m aghast at hearing of this. While the security guard was fired on the spot, I want to take this opportunity to say that I apologize to our community, especially our friends in the LGBT community, and I’m working right now to ensure this never happens at the club again.”
We want to take this moment to APPLAUD U Street Music Hall for being allies in the fight for safe spaces! We can’t express enough how great it is to see a local business take a stand against homophobia and gender-based harassment. In fact, Eastman has an awesome record of helping fight harassment. Earlier this year, Eastman and his local band, Volta Bureau, played a benefit concert to help raise funds for CASS. (Check out the awesome pics here!) What’s more, Eastman and bandmate Micah Vellian filmed an anti-sexual harassment PSA for CASS, in which Eastman explains his club’s strong stance against harasment. Said Eastman, “If you’re harassing somebody in public, sexually, it’s wrong. Period.”
HOWEVER, even as we commend U Hall’s great, public response to Saturday’s incident, it reminds us of the awful problem of LGBTQ discrimination, which is far from uncommon in DC and around the country. Unfortunately, it also is not something that gets talked about enough by ally organizations.
According to a report by the Center for American Progress, LGBT individuals report staggering rates of discrimination in public spaces. A 2001 survey of gay New York residents found that when eating at a restaurant, entering a store, or checking in at a hotel:
- 37% of respondents said they were made to feel unwelcome.
- 27% reported experiencing inappropriate treatment or hostility.
- 25% were verbally harassed.
- 6% had been denied service.
- 5% experienced physical harassment.
Transgender individuals face particularly high rates of public discrimination. A report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) found the following:
- 53% (over HALF!!) of transgender Americans report being verbally harassed or disrespected in an area of public accommodation.
- 44% report being denied equal treatment or service at least once in a place of public accommodation.
- 8% report being physically attacked or assaulted in places of public accommodation.
What can YOU do to fight gender- and sexual orientated-based harassment? Luckily, DC is home to a number of organizations working to end LGBTQ harassment. Some of them are (and let us know if you know more!):
- DC Trans Coalition
- Casa Ruby
- Human Rights Campaign
- The DC Center
- DC ALCU (NOTE: If you’ve been mistreated or harassed based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status, let the ACLU know)
If YOU want to make sure your public spaces are safe for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are available to conduct trainings for business owners and staff on how to recognize and respond to gender-based harassment. And as always, share your story with us to raise awareness about the pervasive nature as well as the personal and damaging effects of harassment.
Lastly, don’t forget to leave a note to give kudos to U Hall for setting an example for DC businesses for zero tolerance for sexual harassment. And don’t forget to watch Volta Bureau’s anti-harassment vid, below!